Travel any grocery wine aisle and if you don’t think West Coast red blends wouldn’t fill the Pacific Ocean, think again.
I see what my daughter’s friends or my wife’s book club or the stray guest brings. Invariably it’s a red blend. Some days, I think the makers of Menage a Trois, Apothic and 14 Hands have cornered the market. There are plenty more proprietary labels, most retailing for $10-$14. Most seem one-dimensional fruit bombs, velvety and hinting sweet.
True confession: In my coming up years after college, I was transitioning from varietal-specific blush wines to red. What seemed most quaffable to me in the early 1980s were the red blends, a mish-mash of varietals smoother than straight-up Cabernet Sauvignon.
Graduating blends, I moved through California Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Zinfandel, Syrah and Petite Sirah over the next few decades.
Now in my sun-downing years, I’ve returned to blends, my favorite category being GSM — Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. If GSM were a three-piece college rock band, Grenache plays lead guitar, Syrah is bass and Mourvedre is pounding drums and cymbals.
This combo packs plenty of cracked black pepper, plum, black cherry, black raspberry, cedar, leather and smoky bacon notes.
The French Rhone region is renowned for this combination, sometimes leveraging additional red grapes to their vinous stew. Reliable Cotes du Rhone brands are E. Guigal, Vidal Fleury, Famille Perrin and M. Chapoutier. These can approach $20 now (what with punishing U.S. tariffs), but I found the Chapoutier Belleruche Rouge at Harris Teeter for $13.99.
Australia, boasting oceans of Syrah, is a good GSM source. Look for McLaren Vale’s The Stump Jump at around $11.
Recognizing GSM’s popularity, California got in the act. Cline Vineyard’s Cashmere out of Sonoma is worth a try at about $12. My everyday go-to now is the Trader Joe’s Petit Reserve GSM Rhone-style blend out of Monterey. Set me back $7.
At that same $7 price is the tasty Kirkland Signature Cotes du Rhone Villages I found at Costco.
The GSM flavor profile, to my mind, offers a spicier, chewier more complex profile than those standard West Coast Cabernet-Merlot-Zin-Syrah blends.
By way of blends, here are two everyday favorites in both a red and a white.
2018 Nero Grande Appassitte ($7): From Trader Joe’s, this Primitivo-Negroamaro hookup from southern Italy suggests the grapes were partially dried to elevate sugars and get that slightly off-dry mouthfeel.
2018 Bellaruche Cotes du Rhone white ($17): Found it at Harris-Teeter at $14. Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Viognier, Clairette and Bourboulenc. A crisp citrusy perfumed wine from France.
These are two wines I picked up at the Piedmont Farmer’s Market (Get them this spring before they sell out).
NV Younts Wine Farm Traminette ($17): From Stokes County, this soft white is a cross of Gewurztraminer and Seyval. An off-dry style perfect to kick off the warmer months ahead.
2017 Sander’s Ridge Muscat Canelli ($18): From Yadkin Valley, this signature white from this winery gets gone in a hurry every year. Fans of Riesling in the Spatlese or Auslese style will warm to this. It’s a decadently tropical fruit-laden wine I snatch whenever I can find it.